It is getting old hat to call every one of Duke’s next games its biggest, but when the Blue Devils take on Florida State in the ACC Championship game on Saturday it is hard to argue they get any bigger.
The 10-2 (6-2 ACC) Coastal Division Champions will have their work cut out for them when they travel to Charlotte to take on the No. 1 team in the country. While Duke has had one of its greatest season’s in 70 years, perhaps ever, the obstacles that the Seminoles will present go beyond anything the Blue Devils have seen all year.
Duke has beaten some good football teams this year, Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and Miami at home, so they certainly will not head into this game fearing Florida State. The Blue Devils will be playing with a chip on their shoulder seeing as no media outlet has projected them to have any chance.
That is something, however, they are to use after having been picked last in the ACC Coastal Division. Duke has persevered all year. Low expectations from the outside never bothered the Blue Devils and when starting quarterback Anthony Boone went down with a broken collarbone in the second game of this season, many wondered if they would fade despite a 2-0 start.
It looked early as if they might, dropping their next two games to Georgia Tech and Pitt, but the Blue Devils fought back. Behind an improving defense that has only allowed just 4 fourth quarter touchdowns en route to the top ranked fourth quarter scoring margin in the nation.
With that said, Florida State features an offense that leads the nation in scoring margin between the first and third quarters and is led by Jameis Winston, perhaps the best player in college football. Winston’s numbers are startling, 3,490 yards passing, 35 touchdowns while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. It is safe to say that the Blue Devils defense, as good as they’ve been have never seen anything like him.
Winston also has the satisfaction of knowing that he sits behind one of the biggest and best offensive lines in the country. The Seminoles defense isn’t too shabby either leading the nation in points against (11 per game).
Make no mistake this game is Rocky vs. Apollo, Hickory vs. South Bend Central, the Mean Machine vs. the Guards. It is the ultimate underdog story. The kind of game that would become a future feature film if Duke could win.
In order for the Blue Devils to have the slightest chance of winning, their offense is going to have to find a way to stay on the field and limit Winston and the Florida State offense’s opportunities. To do that the Blue Devils are going to have to run the ball and run the ball well.
Duke has a solid stable of backs led by Josh Snead and Jela Duncan but they can also go to Shaquille Powell and Juwan Thompson as well. They will also utilize Boone and backup Brandon Connette to run, especially in short yardage situations. Still that won’t be enough.
To beat the seemingly unbeatable they will need their players to make plays. They will need Jamison Crowder to be the explosive player he has been all year. They will need other players to step up in all possible ways. Special teams will need to make plays whether it be Crowder or DeVon Edwards.
To win, Duke will have to play perfect and Florida State will have to be less than their average performance. The odds are not in the Blue Devil’s favor but they have never been in their favor all season and if this year has taught us anything it’s no matter the odds you can expect they will fight to the very end. They will finish.
Florida State-52 Duke-24
As much as I do not like this prediction I have to cast aside my heart and think about the immense task that the Blue Devils have in front of them.
The Seminoles will look to jump out early and they certainly have the ability to do that and leave Duke so far behind that their is no real way to recover. There is no doubt in my mind that Duke could win this game but there are too many things that would have to happen. Duke again would have to be perfect.
I don’t deny that this game could end up closer than this prediction, however, I do think that a win is likely not in the cards. I just think Florida State is that good.